Fardosa Hassan, coordinator of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition in St. Paul, believes teens want to engage in open dialogue about religion, but don’t often have the time to do so.
Sundays at the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition are meant to stimulate honest conversation. Questions are strongly encouraged.
That isn’t always the way it works when it comes to a divisive topic like religion. But for this small group of Twin Cities high schoolers, meeting twice a month for open discussion helps them relate to the world better.
“We all need to unite in order to understand one another. If we can’t find the ability to embrace this open dialogue, then we’ll always be fearful when it comes to approaching each other on the topic of religion,” said Lujain Ali Al-Khawi, a junior at Blaine High School.
At a recent IYLC meeting in St. Paul, a Hmong speaker visited the group to talk about Shamanism. As she spoke about her faith and culture, not only were the questions respectful, but the teenagers asking them were also visibly invested, craving to learn more.
With its main goal to inspire service and engage youth, the IYLC is affiliated with the St. Paul Area Council of Churches. Fardosa Hassan, the group’s coordinator, describes the organization as “a safe place for someone to express themselves without the fear of being judged.”
A graduate of Augsburg College, Hassan discovered her passion for different religions in a required Christianity 101 course. Since that introduction, her primary focus has been spreading awareness about the importance of interfaith discussion.
Al-Khawi, a Muslim, said she believes that open dialogue about religion “really helps broaden perspectives on a global level.”
“It’s really interesting to actually listen to other people and what they believe,” she said. “If people learned more about the religious beliefs of others, a lot of problems could be solved and conflict could be prevented.”
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